Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 23rd Av, 5769
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22 Av, 5769 / August 12, 2009
Day 140 – In His Shoes
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED — Part III Chapter II
As in every aspect of chesed, the best way for a person to determine what is really needed is to put himself in the other man’s shoes. Most people can project how they would feel entering into someone else’s home under various conditions. They can imagine how a traveler feels after a long journey; his deepest desire may be a shower and a change of clothes. A mother coming into a strange house with an entourage of small children may want nothing more than some cookies and apple juice on the table and place for the children to run and play. A charity collector in the midst of a long day of knocking on doors is most likely in need of some encouragement, refreshment and a place to rest his feet for awhile. By using one’s power of empathy, one can target the needs of the guest more precisely and avoid making errors that would detract from the mitzvah.
In doing so, a person also protects his own interests. At the present time, he may be in the position of the giver, the host, the source of food and shelter, but he should realize in the cyclical turnings of the world, the situation could reverse. No asset comes to a person with a guarantee of permanence; today’s giver may be tomorrow’s recipient. How a person treats those who come to him for help determines whether or not he will keep the assets he has been granted. It also influences how he and his offspring will be treated when their time of need arises.
In the Talmud (Shabbos 151b) Rabbi Chia said to his wife, “Give to the guest, because our children may need from him.” She responded, “Are you cursing us?” He denied that his comment was a curse: “When you curse, you suggest that something out of the ordinary should happen. This is ordinary.”
Even a person whose assets remain with him will find he needs others at some juncture in his life. Even a wealthy man can be lost on the road, fall ill while away from home or find himself stranded in transit as Shabbos approaches. In any of these cases, he needs the caring hospitality of others. If he has made the effort in his dealings with guests to protect their dignity and provide for them with graciousness, these are the attitudes that will greet him when he finds himself reliant upon the compassion of others.
The Chofetz Chaim warns against a common mistake people make regarding hachnasas orchim — refraining from inviting someone who needs a place because one feels his home is inadequate for receiving this particular guest. If there is no better option for the guest, one should issue the invitation and let the guest decide whether he wishes to accept. One cannot dishonor someone by offering him the best he has — whatever it is
Step by Step
In my future dealings with guests, I will utilize the technique of projecting myself into their situation so that I can accurately gauge their needs.
Taken from “Chofetz Chaim: Loving Kindness – Daily Lessons in the Power of Giving,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation
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